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Celebrated annually on February 14, Valentine's Day is one of those rare holidays enjoyed worldwide. After all, what is there not to like about a day when loved ones shower each other with cards, flowers, chocolates, and jewelry? The holiday, which ranks as the fifth highest-spending event in the United States, is also a favorite among retailers.
This year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that Americans will spend a mind-boggling $23.9 billion on Valentine's Day. If true, 2022 will be the second-highest spending year on record since the NRF began conducting its annual survey in 2004. The highest was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when they forked over $27.4 billion to demonstrate their love.
The origins of the day of love are murky. The most famous legend attributes the holiday to Valentine de Terni. The Roman saint from the 3rd century was jailed and sentenced to death by Emperor Claudius II for defying his orders and secretly marrying military personnel. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the jailor's daughter and, just before he was executed on February 14, sent her a note signed, "From Your Valentine." In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius set aside the day to honor Saint Valentine, and a fun tradition was born!
The credit for transforming Valentine's Day into a commercial juggernaut goes to British chocolate-maker Richard Cadbury and Massachusetts businesswoman Esther Howland. The former came up with the brilliant idea of selling bite-sized chocolates packaged in heart-shaped boxes on Valentine's Day. Howland helped popularize the tradition of exchanging cards by crafting beautiful lace paper cards featuring love messages. Candy and cards remain the most widely purchased Valentine's Day gifts to this day.
Americans purchase over 58 million pounds of chocolate during the week leading up to the holiday. With over 145 million cards sold in the US, and over a billion worldwide, Valentine's Day is second only to Christmas, when 2.6 billion cards are exchanged. Consumers will also fork out $1.9 billion on flowers, primarily roses. An additional $4.3 billion will be spent treating loved ones to a special meal.
While fine jewelry is always favored on this romantic day, it appears to be even more so this year. The NRF estimates that about $6.2 billion will be spent on jewelry in 2022. This is up from the $4.1 billion spent in 2021 and the highest in the survey's history. Humans are not the only ones that get showered with love. One in five Americans also include pets in their celebration, dropping a cool $703 million! Who would have guessed that a simple love note would evolve into such an expensive affair?